Bill Extending Drug-Free Zones Passes Assembly

STATE—The Assembly has passed legislation Assembly Assistant Majority Leader John S. Wisniewski and Assemblyman Willis Edwards III sponsored to extend the drug-free school zones concept to publicly assisted housing.

The measure (A-378) would amend the state law authorizing drug-free zones at public parks, public housing complexes and public building. The bill would extend protection to housing communities – such as the Lakeview Housing complex in Sayreville – that are not technically “public housing complexes” but which receive government funding.

“Sayreville is the kind of family-oriented community that would benefit from this expanded drug-free safeguard,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “This bill will discourage drug dealers from getting a foothold and doing business where children live and play.”

Under the measure, any person distributing illegal drugs within 500 feet of public assisted housing would be guilty of a second degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail and $150,000 in fines.

Under the measure, a “publicly assisted housing complex” is defined as one that is privately owned but receives public assistance or subsidies. Funds contributed to these facilities–which may be in the from of grants or loans–can come from a federal, state or local government agency.

“Just because a complex is privately owned does not mean that the state should not protect the residents – especially the children – from drugs,” said Wisniewski.

The measure was passed by a vote of 73-3-0 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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